We had our first winter storm of the year over the weekend, and believe me, this is somewhat of a rarity !!
Much of Georgia is still covered with inches of the white coat of snow.
In short, I should have liked to have had the lightest license of a child, and yet be man enough to know its value.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
A decade or so ago, I wrote out the following in calligraphy, printed the message on green paper, and then laminated the copies. (Those of you who know me will be SO surprised with the laminating part, lol)
I gave them out to my seven grade school friends, Mary, Jan, Lynn, Debbie, Evelyn, Cindy, and Jane Ellen, who are as close as family to me.
When Mary texted me a picture of hers last week, telling me it was one of her favorite things to put out during the holiday season, I decided I wanted to share it with my friends and family here on Pages From Joan. I try to read my copy a few times over the holidays each year.
When I first shared it with my Forever Friends, this message was claimed as anonymous. Since then, I have learned that at least the first part was written by Howard W. Hunter, (1907-1995)
I have highlighted (linked) previous related posts throughout the message.
What To Do This Christmas
This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate others. Be kind; be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Welcome a stranger.Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love.Speak it still once again. Christmas is celebration, and there is no celebration that compares tight the realization of its true meaning—with the sudden stirring of the heart that has extended itself toward the core of life. Then, only then, is it possible to grasp the significance of that first Christmas—to savor in the inward ear of the sweet music of the angel choir; to envision the star-struck sky, and glimpse, behind the eyelids, the ray of light that fell athwart a darkened path, and changed the world.
What in the above reading will be a priority for you in the days ahead?
I will be emphasizing more laughter, better listening, and demonstrating my loyalty in word and deed.
This passage in Romans 5 perfectly describes the wonderful and brave woman I am lucky enough to call my mother. Even on her worst or saddest of days, she still shines the brightest light and takes refuge in her faith. I would never come close to the person that I am without you as my Mom!
My friend, Jule Furr, took her leave just before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2017. Jule and I were heart friends and this inspiring angel will be sorely missed. You can read her brief bio here.
Her Celebration of Life Service is on this Saturday, December 9th at 1:00 p.m. at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.'
Jule faced cancer early in her life as a junior high student. Battling the disease for decades, when others asked how she was feeling, she was in the habit of responding, “Oh, it ain’t nothing but ‘a thang’!” with a courageous and joyful smile on her face. Whether she was dealing with loss of hair, bells palsy, or any other yucky side effect of her continual treatment plan, Jule maintained her sense of humor and her determination to live.
I've always thought I was touched by God and He chose me for a reason. Because of my struggles, my faith is stronger. I want people to see Jesus in me. We are here to shine a light.
Jule was treasured, loved, and fought for her life daily to be with her family, husband, Bryan, daughter and son, Jordan and Christian (called Fuzzy). Jule Furr considered these three her greatest gifts! The Furrs were married over thirty years. She felt blessed to have him as her husband and best friend.
Over time, many of us came to call her “Jules”. When I asked her about this, she proclaimed, “Well, I am ‘a jewel’ you know, I’m a ‘Daughter of The King’!!”
It is honestly difficult to describe this woman who changed the world with her birth on February 27, 1964. Number five, she joined four sibs, sisters, Mary Ann, Kathy, Linda, and one brother, Chris. Funny story, upon her birth, her Daddy announced that he would nickname Jule “Banana” as the 5th one in the bunch, but the kids disagreed!
First living in Charlotte, North Carolina as newlyweds, Jules and Bryan Furr soon moved to Georgia where they raised their two babies in Marietta.
My story with Jules began when we were Moms together at Eastside Christian School in the late nineties . Though I lost touch in recent months due to the severity of Jules progressive disease, our friendship is one I will cherish in my heart forever.
Here, I will share a few anecdotes from our time together.
In 2000, I was preparing to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer 60-Day Walk from Gainesville to Atlanta. Having gone through this cancer herself, Jules was not strong enough to participate. However, she did want to help me raise funds. A participant was required to raise a minimum of $1,500.00 and our children held a Dog Wash to help. (I still laugh when I recall our son, Walker, age 8 at the time asking me if he could put out a “tip jar”!) Along with my friends who were walking with me, Kathy Owen and Jil Cain, we raised nearly 10 grand! Jules, alone gave me a total of $820.00 the week of our walk! While registering on Day One, a woman in front of me was dismayed because she was unable to reach her financial goal. You guessed it, she was right at $820.00 short and I happily gave her Jules donation funds. Wow, was that a cool, God Wink!?!
Also, in 2000, when battling breast cancer, Jules’ fear for her two young children’s reaction, soon gave way to inspiration. Soon, she penned an original story called, “The Scarf Game”, and it was published just a few weeks later. The 23 page story book which never mentions the word “cancer” was written from her daughter, Jordan’s perspective. The creative story line explains how both Jordan and Christian learned to tie scarves on their Mom’s bald head to help her when she was not feeling so well. This is just another example of the courageous and positive outlook this dear friend held in life.
During a particular season of illness, during the school year of 2007-2008, Jules and I would talk on the phone often. She shared with me that when she felt down and discouraged, she would list the things she was most grateful for…her husband, Bryan, Jordan, 8th grade at the time, and their son, Christian, 4th grade.
One time when I was at Chemo treatment with Jules, her nurse, Cindy Deminsky, said about Jules, “She is a treasure, treasure, treasure!” In Jules’ usual humored way, she quipped, “No, you are! I’m just an addict!”
Jules always expressed to me how much she valued her girlfriends. Back in the day, she thoroughly loved her “Southern Living Ladies Lunch Club”. They would dress crazy for gatherings and when Jules was ill, they took two-hour shifts to stay with her.
We must meet the unknown future by bringing to bear everything that has been shaped by us in the past.
John O'Donohue, Irish Writer (1956-2008)
I am convinced Jules relied strongly on her faith as she journeyed through life, and she would want everyone to know this!
Jule Furr defined life and never allowed life to define her. Her smile changed the world, but she never let the circumstances of her world change her smile.
As Donny and I awaited the exciting game to start this past Saturday night at the Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium, cheering for both the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, the arena was electric !!!
As the Auburn University Marching Band played the Star Spangled Banner and presented the massive mid-field American flag, I got goose bumps as I always do. In the middle of all the excitement of the start of this S.E.C. Championship game, the announcer reminded us to remove our hats, place our hands on our hearts, taking a few minutes to honor our service men and women.
The flag. It carries so much meaning. So much thought and gratefulness. So much sacrifice and unification.
During this festive season, I am hoping that this blog post will remind you and me to remember our military. Those who are currently serving with strength, sacrifice, determination, and loyalty to help us maintain our freedom. At the very least, they deserve our remembrance and our prayers. And while we are at it, let’s also pray for our first responders, armed officers, firefighters and those working day in and day out to keep us all safe.
So many are serving away from home this Christmas. Just this morning in our small group at church, a friend shared that her deployed son will not be able to travel home. Many families are in this place as well. And it is so easy to recall being a pre-teen in 1968, when my older brother, John Wade served in Vietnam. A few young men we knew very well never saw their 20th birthday because of that horrific conflict. John, thankfully made it back and has been blessed with an amazing family, including Jeanie, his wife for 4+decades, three married children and nearly 4 grands.
As we were heading to a work Christmas party on Friday night, this song, Christmas Where You Are, by Jim Brickman. I knew I had never heard it and made a note to listen to it again when I returned home. When I did, it was clear to me that I needed to share this song with you. Just released in early October 2017, the message holds a huge punch for all of us whose hearts swell for those who serve in the military.
Did you know? There is a cool back story. This song, by both Brickman and Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, is a thank you to all our men and women at home and abroad who are serving our country. It’s a message that wherever they may be fighting for our freedom, we are thinking of them and that it is still Christmas where they are.
Please share this post and let us all remember with thankfulness our armed forces across the globe. Let’s continue to teach our youth, coming close behind us, the amazing sacrifice of those who serve.
God Bless America and beyond. May angels fly beside you all. May Heaven steel your hearts.
In what ways will you and I remember and honor our military service men and women in the days ahead?
“Please tell me a story.” was a common request in our home back in the day when our kids were little. Here, you will learn about some wooden toys to use during story time that will add imagination in play! In case your time is short, and you want to go straight to The Wooden Storyteller site, click here. You will love these!
Story time is such a great time for connection, teaching, and halting the rush, if only for a few minutes, that we all seem to be experiencing these days.
Do you currently have little ones that are an important part of your life?
I hope you will check out these creative wooden storyteller pieces that your children and grandchildren will surely delight in.
My niece, Rachael along with her husband, Thomas are the creators of some amazing “hands on” toys that you just might want to add to your list for the little ones that you love. Read on to learn how they were inspired to start their little, growing business:
“We are a Southern family living in the Pacific Northwest. We have one son, Titus, who is three years old. “Mama, I strong. I wild. I fierce.” Thank you little one.
My husband, Thomas, started making toys for our son’s play. He would need a boat for his men or a monster for the sea. We began to get compliments and people were shocked when they discovered we made them ourselves. We soon had orders from family and friends. We knew we were on to something and the rest is history.
We honor both free play and storybooks. We believe storytelling is the perfect mix of the two. Telling your child a story while acting it out only solidifies the tale. When your child retells a story and plays it back out….something magical happens. They make this tale their own. This is imaginative narration in play, and it is so good.
We keep our wooden toys simple. We desire children to have toys that are both visually and tactically beautiful. We want children to explore with creative thought and to learn truth from stories. We believe children should get the quality of the toy and the quality of the story.
We would love to hear from you! Happy Storytelling!”
They offer a number of story pieces including Jonah and the whale, The Nativity Story, The 3 Little Pigs, and many more. Each set comes in its own drawstring bag to keep the story pieces together. They can also make special orders that you do not find in their current collection.
Today, I want to share with you three touchstones of showing up.
Acts of love that will truly help during difficult seasons of life.
When is the last time you heard some grueling news about someone you know? A few days ago, a week or month ago? It seems the older we get, the more frequent it is. Someone has a new health diagnosis. A tragedy has happened in a family you love or a marriage has split up. Someone has passed suddenly.
This book gives many great ideas about how to best reach out when someone you love is going through a hard time. Here, I will give you just a fraction of what I learned in this quick, colorful, informative read.
Three Touchstones Of Showing Up:
(1) Your kindness is your credential. (page 58) “At its core, kindness is a total absence of ego and self-interest in doing something for someone else. The defining feature of kindness is that it comes unsolicited, and in its most awe-inspiring moments, it comes to the aid of those who are shunned. ” (page 60) Kindness comes from a basic social emotion: compassion. Compassion is to Notice, Feel, and Respond.
(2) Listening speaks volumes. (page 90) “Knowing how bad it can feel to hear the wrong thing, and how easy it can be to say the wrong thing, many of us would rather remain silent and walk away from an emotionally difficult situation.”
'I loved her texts. Just knowing that she noticed and cared, was all that I needed; it's not like she had a magic lever that would release balloons from the ceiling and make my disease go away.'
-Ken, diagnosed with MS
“Even if we know from experience how comforting it can be to have someone to talk to, when we’re in that position to provide such comfort, that conversation can easily feel too overwhelming to handle.”
“Thankfully, the conversations get easier with practice, and they can pretty much guarantee us the absolute best way to build deep, trusting, unshakable relationships–the kind most of us can use more of. The best way to have a conversation with someone in a difficult time, is not in the talking, but in the listening. And thankfully, it’s much easier to listen than it is to find that elusive ‘useful’ thing to say.”
'If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but do not love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain 'Jump!', and it jumps, but I do not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. Love Never Gives Up. Love Cares More For Others Than For Self. Love Does Not Want What It Does Not Have.'
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
(3) Small gestures make a big difference. (page 145) “Sometimes, what’s holding us back from offering comfort isn’t that we don’t care enough, but that we don’t feel we have the time or the bandwidth to do something that will make a difference. We may feel that we have to be 100 percent available all the time when we’re around someone in a tough situation. It’s not unreasonable to think that saying ‘I’m sorry’ is an inadequate response to, say, the loss of a loved one. Or that asking ‘How are you?’ and genuinely wanting to know means we are then responsible for talking with this person about their situation until the end of time. The good news is these fears are normal. The better news is these fears are not rational. Empathy Tip: (page 167) “The sick, grieving, or freaked-out person ALWAYS gets a pass. Always offer up your gift with a ‘No need to write a thank-you.” And mean it.
In the days and weeks ahead, how can you and I better love the hurting folks who end up directly in our life path?
It is the first part of a song by Eric Clapton that was first penned in 1974. Perhaps you, like me, were in high school at that time. These lyrics remind me of our friends who have chosen a positive fork in the road, even amidst great adversity, in the past couple of years. You can listen to the song here.
Donny and I were making our five-hour annual October trek home from VA to GA yesterday in the torrential rain that Hurricane Nate left in his path. As we traveled, my mind wandered through the past couple of years, 945 days to be precise.
'The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you're made of, not the circumstances.'
Back on March 7, 2015, our dear friends, The Read’s son, Taylor Heston Read, age 23 passed away. As the miles clicked by in Virginia, and soon Tennessee, a question kept coming to my heart and mind.
“How Does A Family Move Through A Life Loss Like This?”
While we have not lost a child, Donny and I have faced the passing of all of our birth parents. We have also gone through the home going of some precious friends and other family members. We all experience grief in one way or another as we journey through this thing called life. Grief is certain in each one of our lives.
Since we have been closely connected to The Reads during this season of grief, I have some reflections I feel compelled to share here.
'Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing.'
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, German Theologian, Organist, Philosopher, Physician, and Medical Missionary to Africa (1875-1964)
Marrying just 48 days before us, in 1982, The Reads have maintained a strong marriage partnership. They have taken in good music to soothe their soul, and enjoyed yummy food from their Big Green Egg. They have made sure to welcome continual fellowship with family and friends. The Reads have stayed connected to their church family which nourishes each other during times of need. This decision was clear after Taylor’s passing when this song was chosen to be played as the family was ushered out following his Celebration of Life service.
Along with the help of friends, family, the community of Abingdon, Virginia and the Virginia Creeper Trail Club, this family has brought about a unique “shelter from the storm” alongside The Holston River which was dedicated in October 2015. Designed by Taylor’s talented sister, Megan Read, this is a picturesque spot all should visit at some point in the future.
Already, this shelter has brought rest and has been a refuge to many including bikers, kayakers, visitors to The River Cafe in Alvaredo Station. Taylor’s Shelter has even been a venue for a few weddings.
As the miles clicked by and we grew closer to our home state of Georgia, the rain continued to splatter our windshield. Soon another song came on that brought The Read’s willful and purposeful choices to mind. They have ended their days by looking for hope in tomorrow. By Jim Croce, this song Hey Tomorrow was first penned in 1972., and it starts like this:
'Taylor was honored and God was glorified.'
Paul Read, in talking about the 3rd annual Ride for his son, Taylor on October 7, 2017
I have a couple of questions for you and for me today. How we will respond in our time of grief and hardship? Will we follow the example of this courageous family, looking up with hope in the future? I hope I will.
Do you have a lot of stress in your life these days. With all of the news of the weather, the fires, the political climate, and the fast pace at which we live, it would be no surprise to anyone that our stress levels are at an all-time high.
Today, I will share with you six ways we can begin to relieve our stress starting today.
S-Seize the moment, pause and be IN the moment. Realize that this few minutes may be all we have. Breathe deeply connecting with your heart.
T-Take a minute to meditate and pray…whatever that means for you. Express gratitude. As a Christ-follower, I have learned that He meets me right where I am whenever I reach out to Him. I’m so thankful for this truth.
R-Rest enough. I know this is easier said than done. Especially for parents of young ones and those who are working long hours, but insufficient sleep puts us on edge. Try setting the timer on your phone and stretch out for a 15-25 minute power nap. At night, keep your screens away from your bedside table. It is particularly important to do this before sleep as it can cut down many of the problems related to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
E-Be sure to get some exercise, even if it is a simple walk around your workplace parking lot during your lunch break. Move. Stretch. Stretch. Move. Exercise will pump up your endorphins, improving your mood.
S-Shed Stuff. Keep a “give away” box handy and put things in there on a regular basis. Most will agree that we just have too much stuff! Let’s give things away that are still useful and unclutter our lives some to help us relieve stress.
S-Screen Time Reduced. Most of us, if we were completely honest, spend way too much time looking at screens during our waking hours. The preoccupation with our devices, even during free time can often mess up other schedules causing delays in routine work, creating unwanted stress.
Regulating screen time can help individuals block out at least some of the channels through which stress is stimulated.
Which of these six ideas will you incorporate into your life in the days ahead?
'Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen---that stillness becomes a radiance.'
It has been some weeks since I have showed up with a new post and I have missed you all! I took a few minutes to link several of my favorite posts here at the end. I hope you will check out some of these you may have missed.
We’ve had a summer filled with fun and musing about my book, which I continue to work on. With the start of a new year, along with a cool, fall season, I plan to post two to three times a week in the days ahead. Thanks for following along and sharing my posts when my message resonates with your heart.
I have to thank my sister, Amelia Kathryn Seder, more often known as Kathy for this play on words that I will be sharing with you today. I am blessed with three sisters and you can read more about them here and here.
Often, we share group texts or emails between the four of us, reminding us of our common faith, our love of family and important updates. We are glad we have each other to enjoy. We give and receive encouragement. It is always a joy to send things back and forth to one another, especially when we cannot be together for one of our coveted Sister Sessions. Each of us has a unique and long lasting love for our beloved Mama, and when we are together, we feel like Mom is right in our midst. We truly miss her every single day, but we, each one, see “her” when we look in the mirror.
STEAL: Sometimes we simply need to steal away from the crowdedness of our daily life, all activities, and be quiet with ourselves. Sometimes it is not our bodies so much, it is the busy activity of our thoughts. (see Luke 5:16 to see Christ’s example of stealing away)
STILL: As believers, many of us will immediately think of one of my all-time favorite verses…“Be Still And Know That He Is God...”, Psalm 46:10. It is often just so very difficult to be still, however, we have to be still to hear. Did you know? Some of the translations of this verse say to “Cease Striving”. What a good reminder for each one of us! And as I am taking a few minutes to be still, I love the promise we find in Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
STEEL: After we have stolen away from the noise and chaos of the world to be still, we can breathe better. We will feel more ready, better equipped to steel ourselves for whatever comes our way. It is easy to have a good attitude when everything is going our way or the way we expected things to go. We know that even in the most dire circumstances, it becomes more about our response to events than the actual happenings in life. Steeling ourselves beforehand is a great way to be prepared. Chuck Swindoll penned a great word about this very thing in a short poem called ATTITUDE.
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me is more important than facts.It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company …a church …a home.The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past …we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude …I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you …we are in charge of our attitudes.
This poem is the most helpful when we are dealing with difficult situations. Oftentimes, circumstances we don’t expect or wish were different. We cannot control what other people do or say and cannot always change how things turn out in our lives. One thing, we can always rely on, is how we react to what is happening.
How will we choose to start our days?
Steal away, if only for a few minutes. Be Still. Face our day head on, we will go forward, like steel, no matter what our day brings.
Many have been dealing with evacuation and loss in the recent, horrific storms. Our love and prayers go out to each one impacted by these storms and fires that are circling our globe.
What are the roadblocks in our path? If we stop and think about it, we all have something in our life journey that is trying to hold us back.
What is your obstacle? What is mine?
'You strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do, determined to save the only life you could save.'
Mary Oliver (1986 from 'The Journey In Dream Work')
I love to keep my eyes open to lessons that unfold on any given day. I try to stay watchful for any hindrance that is keeping me from achieving my dreams.
I don’t think I realized a current life obstacle until this past week when I traveled to the The John C. Campbell Folk School, on my 35 mile commute to my week-long writing class. The twice daily, one-hour commute from Lake Blue Ridge to Brasstown, North Carolina, on curvy four-lane highways gave me plenty of time to think.
Tuesday morning, I was on the road again, when five minutes later, I encountered a large fallen pine tree in the woods, left behind by a hailstorm from the night before. I definitely had an obstruction before me, an obstacle to prevent me from arriving to my class on time.
“Wow!”, I said to myself! “What now?” I knew there was no way around the fallen tree, and since this was the only way out of the woods, I headed back home and made a fresh pot of coffee. 6:30 a.m. was too early to call for help, so I sat down to work on a writing assignment that had been especially challenging for me: “A Heart Metaphor”. Soon, I was able to reach my friend, Butch Davenport, a retired firefighter and he came on over with a chainsaw. The towering tree was no longer in my path. And my heart metaphor was complete! I was only 1/2 hour late for my Tuesday class.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will show you which path to take.
Later, waiting for the lunch bell, my new friend Chris Todd, a glass blowing student and I talked about the fallen tree story. We explored about the analogy comparing this to obstacles in our life journey. From an earlier conversation, I knew Chris worked with the Maryland Park Service.
A particular remark of his resonated with me. “You know, Joan, we can’t just keep going ’round and ’round the tree.”
Chris went on to explain that when a tree falls in the forest, hikers continue on their way by walking around it. Because the rangers worked hard to keep every trail maintained, a new path being made by boots going around a tree, presented a new problem for them. He said while it is not always possible, it’s much better to remove the tree, the obstacle, before continuing on.
I’ve been musing and working on a book about lessons my Mama taught me, and as I drove carefully my thoughts returned to the fallen tree from before dawn that same morning.
I came to recognize that I had developed a good bit of fear regarding my project. What if I never completed it? What if it wasn’t very readable? What if no one liked it? What if ________________. Fill In The Blank!
As I passed over the North Carolina state line, the distance between me and the school growing less, I began to admit to myself this fear had become an obstacle for me and I was the only one who could do something about this barrier in my life journey as a blossoming writer.
This tree on the property of the school reminds me of a “fork in the road”, which is where I am now:
Would I face my fear and get busy with my much-loved project? OR Would I stay busy doing other things and simply say to myself, “I am too busy to complete this book about my Mama and her lessons!”
As the week comes to a close, I know which fork I will be choosing! Cheers to my book work that is ahead of me!
What obstacles might be in your path? What is keeping you from reaching your dreams? Let’s do this together. Let’s Go For It!